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GOP needs more than just a verbal gaffe to oust Peterson

Suddenly, a nine-term U.S. Congressman who has consistently been re-elected with relative ease may have a chink in his armor.

Collin Peterson, a Detroit Lakes Democrat who has received nearly two-thirds of the vote in every election since 1996, was quoted in a story in the online newspaper Politico as saying: "Twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and (then-Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down. That's why I don't do town meetings."

Peterson, who has won bipartisan accord during his tenure in Washington and is chair of the House Agriculture Committee, offered a quick apology in a statement -- reported in a Forum Communications Co. Capital Bureau story -- in which he said he "certainly wasn't trying to make fun of everyone. What I was talking about was simply that there are the people in Minnesota's 7th District who have called me and talked to me about this question."

We don't doubt Peterson has had people call and talk to him regarding such theories about Sept. 11. (We have had at least one person phone us at the Daily Globe in a similar vein.) But what should voters in the 7th District make of Peterson's 25-percent assessment? Will they take from it that Peterson sees a large component of them as far out of touch?

Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said Republicans will have an easier time recruiting candidates because of Peterson's remark. Perhaps that's true, but we think they'll need much more than opposition in numbers -- and a mere verbal gaffe -- to take down a respected veteran legislator.

-- Worthington Daily Globe